Before the advent of the railroad and easily traversed highways, most of the commerce in central California was conducted by ship and piers and wharfs were vitally important. Local products were shipped out to markets in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Early on, during the Spanish and Mexican eras, ships anchored off the coast and goods were exchanged via small craft, powered by oar. That can be risky even in the best weather. The earliest piers such as the San Simeon pier, were enterprises underwritten by wealthy landowners or by collaborators forming a company which owned the pier. This made the shipment and import of goods much easier and cheaper.